Seminar: Storytelling and Compositing


Last week I had the opportunity to attend a seminar taught by Brooke Shaden.  I always love going to these seminars to pick up on tips and tricks, especially from successful artists (as Brooke Shaden is successfully making a living off of her art – that’s a lot of street cred she has with me.)  I wasn’t aware of her work much before the seminar was brought to my attention, but her imagery really strikes a chord with me; and I think my work might develop along similar lines.

The topic was storytelling and compositing – the art of taking multiple photos and blending them together to create a new whole.  Personally I’m still deciding what level of Photoshop I feel OK with before I don’t want to call the end work a “photograph” verses a “digital painting”.  Still, can’t argue that when one hasn’t got a budget of thousands to get sets and props, a judicious use of Photoshop to get the image you want has its place.  And I really love the term “self portrait artist”, because I often end up using myself as a model in my photos – so, I’m going to have to start using that term for my photography!

This is the image I walked away with at the end of the day.  We had done another group shot with a model with a levitation shot, but due to the size of the class I wasn’t really able to get a good angle and shots to work with.  This one actually IS a composite of 3 different images, although if I had more setup time I know I could have gotten it in 1 or 2.  There’s nothing about it (such as including thing in motion, supports that really needed to be erased, etc) that couldn’t have been done with one shot…well, maybe some support.  But we had 30 free minutes to ourselves and a bunch of props in this gorgeous old library room and I was inspired to do a mysterious wrapped figure, like a library gargoyle!  A patron gargoyle of learning, as it were.

One of the most important techniques of the day was taking a blank setup shot, or plate, of the setting without any of the models or action.  This works to your advantage down the line, particularly in a levitation shot where you will be masking out a visible means of support, but it is good practice to do for any shot you know you will composite. And of course, this works best when all your shots will be take from the same angle/height/lighting conditions, so for this kind of work a tripod is necessary and a remote control trigger very handy.

I have 3 basic layers of the shot – I do love layer masks as just about the best thing ever in Photoshop.

Here’s the 3 shots I started with.  One is the background, and I admit I didn’t do this in the best way – in the end I liked a slightly different framing of the background, so you see all the subsequent images of the figure had to be scaled down to fit in the new frame.  Not a big deal, but if I’d gotten it right I would have saved myself some post processing work.  The second was chosen for the upper body.  The shelf I sat on was actually quite narrow, so I was in danger of tipping completely forward and falling off.  I wouldn’t have been able to lean forward without Wayne’ support.  The third shot was of the lower body with no support – I had Wayne draw back for just a few seconds while the shot was snapped.

thanks for the support, wayne!

I liked this shot quite a bit for something I only had a short amount of time to work on.  In retrospect, the image would have been more evocative with more story (perhaps another figure to interact with the gargoyle?)  But I do love red, and drapery.

And here’s a quick shot of the demo of how to do a levitation shot.  It was pretty neat – I’ve started messing around with them a little bit, so stay tuned for more. :)

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